USA

USA: "Medical Recovery Week" brings relief to thousands

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By Staci Dennis

NEW ORLEANS - For Stan Brock, Hurricane Katrina proved to bring the worst of times - and the best of times.

"We were living in the best of times, but everything changed when the hurricane hit," said Brock, president of Remote Area Medical (RAM), a non-profit, volunteer organization that provides medical care and other humanitarian services around the world.

"The nation saw New Orleans at the worst of times," he added. "We are the world's richest country and we are having trouble looking after our own citizens."

Those devastated by Hurricane Katrina might still be struggling through the worst of times, but thanks to Operation Blessing and partners, thousands are finding hope and free medical care this week at "The Greater New Orleans Medical Recovery Week."

The 7-day event, held Jan. 28 - Feb. 3, is located at the site of OBI's medical and dental clinics at Joe Brown Park in New Orleans East and is a collaboration between Operation Blessing and RAM, along with the International Medical Alliance (IMA), New Orleans Health Department and the LA Department of Health and Hospitals.

"Even in the worst of times, we can see the best in people...the spirit to rebuild, camaraderie and resilience," said Jody Herrington, director of U.S. disaster relief with Operation Blessing.

More than 400 doctors, dentists and nurses flew in from across the country to volunteer at the event, which saw about 600 patients on opening day. Event organizers estimate that more than 10,000 medical services will be provided by the end of the week.

"This is a magnified version of what we've been doing here all along," said Operation Blessing President Bill Horan. "We are here to help."

OBI has spent more than $500,000 to help make the event a success; setting up more than 20,000 square feet of tent space outside their existing medical and dental clinics to house additional vision, dental and medical exam rooms.

Other services include dental work such as fillings, root canals, cleanings and extractions; eye exams and glasses; medical exams and primary healthcare; OBGYN, diabetic care, pediatrics and cardiology.

Last year's medical week, which was held at the Audubon Zoo, provided more than 9,600 medical services and dispensed an average of 650 prescriptions a day.

"Katrina washed away people's homes, jobs and health insurance," Horan said, "but not their high blood pressure, diabetes and other illnesses."

In addition to the medical events, OBI will continue to offer free health care at their medical and dental clinics, which have treated more than 15,000 residents and filled approximately 30,000 prescriptions since April 2006.

"Seeing America come together to help these people in New Orleans shows me this is the best of times," Herrington said. "The worst of times are behind us."

How You Can Help

Be a part of OBI's ongoing disaster relief efforts by making an online donation to help those affected by the Gulf Coast hurricanes. For volunteer opportunities click here.